FREE EPL PICKS WEST HAM vs CRYSTAL PALACE
While Liverpool, City and the rest fight for the title and Champions League spots, and another bunch of teams caught up in the relegation battle, Crystal Palace and West Ham have slowly been chipping away forming their own mid table brawl. Having beaten the likes of Manchester City in the Premier league and Spurs in the FA Cup, whilst taking draws off of the Red Devils and the Gunners, Crystal Palace seem to be in the midst of a strong finish to the season. But looks can be deceiving and while their run against the top 6 is quite exhilarating, they have managed only 7 points in the last six games keeping them only 4 points above the drop. A much needed 2-0 win at Selhurst park will give them the confidence going into the game at the weekend. And having their top scorer, Luka Milivojevic, back on the scoresheet is always going to be an extra boost.
After a thrilling 3-2 contest against the Eagles in early December, Pellegrini will be hoping to snatch another victory to keep their hopes of a top 7 finish alive. The Hammers, on the weekend got a hard earned point against Liverpool but will be vary of Palace having lost their last 4 away games in a row. Losing out on Michy Batshuayi to them in the transfer market was a serious blow and it’ll be testing against the team who are fifth best in the league when it comes to clean sheets.
West Ham, though, will be hopeful for a return by Marco Arnautovic, following a foot injury around the end of December. The striker signed a new one year contract that’ll keep him at the club until 2020, rejecting offers of £250,000 a week from China. Nonetheless, it won’t be a surprise if he’s left on the bench with the Stratford side already having the likes on Chicharito, Andy Carroll and Lucas Perez all sniffing for a first team spot. Crystal Palace missed the fanfare of Wilfried Zaha against Fulham after sarcastically applauding at the referee in the 1-1 draw at Southampton. And he’s also doubtful for Saturday’s game following the FA reviewing his conduct.
Selhurst Park can be a difficult place to visit and when you have a pair that consists of Luka Milivojevic and Jordan Ayew, there are definitely going to be some nerves. Seven goals this season puts Luka in the top for Palace. Having only 37% possession against second bottom side, Fulham, The Eagles relied heavily on counter-attacking play which suits the 27 year old Serb as he can pick a pass out from any part of the ground. And with Ayew helping them to wins against a dangerous Wolves team and Grimsby town in the FA Cup, these two are always a very reliable pair to be dealt.
Veteran Mark Noble is an integral part of this Hammers’ unit and with his crisp passing and exceptional game sense, he always does have an impact in the match. While former England international, Michail Antonio, having scored a brilliant first time finish off the bar against the Reds, will be hungry for more through the left wing.
With over 50 appearances for West Ham and a consistent 10 goal record over the past 5 seasons, Austrian striker, Marco Arnautovic, will be looking to make a goal scoring comeback from injury to take him closer to the ten goal mark this season. He’s said he’s put aside thoughts and talks of a move to China and has committed his cause to the London club. His movement inside the box and sublime finishing will surely keep the Eagles’ defense on their toes. Andros Townsend’s left foot is something quite remarkable. Coupled with the speed that he’s got, he can take the ball from one end to the other in the matter of seconds, dribbling his way past the opposition. The former Newcastle United midfielder scored in the FA Cup win against Tottenham through a penalty.
Roy Hodgson depends a lot on Wilfried Zaha, and with him possibly ineligible to play on Saturday, Hodgson will have to turn to other alternatives. One name that pops up almost instantly, like toast that’s ready, is Christian Benteke. The Belgian striker has scored 18 goals in the Premier League in the last two seasons for Palace but is yet to get off the mark this season having played only 6 times. But with Palace having their injury and suspension problems, Benteke can pose a huge problem for the Hammers’ defense. Tall and strong, he can hold on to the long balls up front and wait for support and when given the chance, can power it into the corner.
After all, 30 year old Javier Hernandez made his mark in those memorable Sir Alex’s United days. But since then, after moving to Madrid and Leverkusen, he’s back in the Premier League and has been scoring vital goals for West Ham’s progression in the table. To fight for a top seven finish, they’ll have to rely on Chicharito’s ability to score. And this aptness from the Mexican forward is what keeps him in a majority of fantasy teams.
EPL FREE PREDICTIONS CRYSTAL PALACE vs WEST HAM
Palace and West Ham are two similar teams hungry for points to take them closer to the top and to keep them away from the bottom. In itself it seems they’re playing in a completely different league and will be close fought contest. So close that either a goal could take one through or there could be no stopping it. Only time will tell.